Chief Selvain McQueen met with Columbus police officers Tuesday afternoon in what was promised to be a meeting regarding “upcoming changes in the department.”
The department’s chaplain, Capt. Fred Shelton, opened the meeting with a prayer asking for “wisdom, knowledge and understanding.”
Once the meeting began, McQueen addressed the approximate 70 officers saying, “Think about the past few months. We’re undergoing change. The very culture of our department is changing and we’re going to boost morale.”
Sources told The Packet that the morale McQueen referred to within the CPD is “virtually nonexistent” adding, “we’re discouraged.”
McQueen attempted to boost morale by telling the officers, “You’re the only profession, the only profession, that drives someone else’s car, wears someone else’s clothes, gets paid someone else’s money, stays in someone else’s business.” The chief also added, “Career success does not guarantee fulfillment, nor does education.”
The chief spoke for about 30 minutes, giving a three point speech that started with his key point that “change is a good thing.” According to McQueen, “Change will come whether or not you want it. Great change, even devastating change, forced upon us creates growth.”
He also addressed underlying tension in the department saying, “A house divided against itself will not stand.”
In order to unite the officers within the department and with the community, the chief required each officer to perform a mandatory community project.
In addition to community outreach, McQueen said he has ordered an audit of the department and said the audit “affords a starting point. It can be measured and fixed.”
While most officers initially thought the meeting was going to include a discussion on the proposed idea of lateral hiring, the topic was not mentioned at Tuesday’s meeting.
McQueen did, however, briefly touch on the highly debated subject of promotions. According to the chief, “Promotions will be done. Some officers will be promoted. It is unrealistic to think otherwise.”
Officers began the promotions process back in February, 2011 but it came to an abrupt halt with the firing of former police chief Joe St. John in June. When asked by The Packet when officers would be promoted, McQueen respond with “Soon, very soon.” but could not offer a specific date.
The civil service committee meets today at 5 p.m. to conduct a hearing about the possibility of lateral hiring. Lateral hiring is allowing an officer to transfer to another department with his rank intact. According to sources familiar with law enforcement, no other department in the State
of Mississippi has lateral hiring.